System Shock (1994) is an action role-playing game developed by Looking Glass Technologies and published by Origin Systems.

System Shock

System Shock

Released in 1994, the game is set aboard the fictional Citadel Station in a cyberpunk vision of 2072. Assuming the role of a nameless hacker, the player attempts to hinder the plans of a malevolent artificial intelligence.
Unlike other first-person games of the time, System Shock features true 3D environments, allowing the player to look up and down, climb, duck, jump, and lean to the side. Critics praised System Shock and hailed the game as a major innovation in its genre. It was later placed on multiple hall of fame lists. Despite its technological feats and critical acceptance, System Shock was outsold by its contemporaries. A sequel, System Shock 2, was released by Looking Glass Studios and off-shoot developer Irrational Games in 1999.

Prior to System Shock’s release, Doug Church stated that “we’ve always felt that first person games are maximally atmospheric”, and “in System Shock we are pushing that in as many ways as we can.” Developers focused on the game’s story to achieve their desired atmosphere; Looking Glass Technologies believed that “things have to look real … [and] feel real”. Similarly, the game’s log and e-mail messages were designed to be “more than ‘you must pull lever N'”, with the goal of “[making] them feel as though they came from and are going to someone real.” As no non-player characters appeared in System Shock to converse with the player, the plot was conveyed through these log discs and e-mails. System Shock 2 developer Johnathan Chey later stated that this decision resulted from 1994’s computer technology being “simply inadequate to support believable and enjoyable interactions with [non-player characters].”

System Shock is considered by some to be a major innovation in the first-person genre. In a Gamasutra feature, Patrick Redding of Ubisoft attested that “the fact that so many of System Shock’s features are now virtually de rigueur in modern sci-fi shooters is a testament to the influence exerted by this one game.” GameSpy argued that the game “is the progenitor of today’s story-based action games, a group with titles as diverse as ‘Metal Gear Solid,’ ‘Resident Evil,’ and even ‘Half-Life‘.” Eurogamer called the System Shock series “the benchmark for intelligent first-person gaming”, noting that “[it] kick-start[ed] the revolution which … has influenced the design of countless other games.”

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